At today's general meeting of the Chelsea Pitch Owners, the issue of selling the freehold on which Stamford Bridge sits was voted on. The result was something of a draw, as 3,569 votes from 5,796 were cast in favour of the proposal. While the Chelsea won a simple majority of the votes, they fell 778 votes short of the 75% required for the motion to pass. While it's undoubtedly a victory for the Say No CPO campaign, one must ask, "Where do we go from here?"
Many have noted that the only real way the SNCPO campaign could have defeated this proposal in the long run was to deny Chelsea a simple majority in today's vote. They have not done that. Chelsea won 61.6% of the vote from the CPO, which means the CPO retain the freehold. What are the likely scenarios now? Personally, I think Chelsea have a good chance of getting the required votes eventually, and this vote doesn't really affect the long-term outlook for a stadium move.
Option 1: Both sides will come to the bargaining table, and work out some sort of compromise.
This is the most likely option for me. What it means, however, I don't know. It's too soon to tell what sort of concessions Chelsea will have to make to secure the votes to win a second vote. Realistically, I don't think it will be very much. It's thought that many of the "No" votes cast were less out of a desire to remain at Stamford Bridge, and more a reaction to the suddenness of today's vote, and out of a desire for more information. In my opinion, since only about 35% of today's "No" voters would need to change their vote for Chelsea achieve the 75% needed, giving the CPO a more concrete idea of the club's future stadium plans will secure the required votes. If they also have to make some small concessions, fine, but I don't think they will include many of the big-ticket things like a guaranteed stay within three miles until 2030 or even 2050. Also out of the question is a transfer of the CPO rights to the new stadium. It just doesn't make sense for the club to do so.
Option 2: Chelsea cave. or give up on a new stadium.
As I said, I can't see Chelsea having to make huge concessions to win a future vote. I also can't imagine they'd give up on a move after a single vote. There isn't, I guess, any obvious reason for the club not to guarantee the CPO arrangement in a new stadium, but it's a complete non-starter. The CPO's role as protector seems largely ceremonial now, since Chelsea are at point where we are really worth more than the land on which our stadium sits. A new stadium will simply not need this protection. I simply can't imagine the club building a new stadium without a plan to stay for fifty years, a hundred, or more. Let's face it. The club are not going to turn into nomads. They will move once in this century. By the time the club will need a new stadium, the game will be played by robots, not human beings, but move they will. We are at a point where the club will need to move in the next decade. Stamford Bridge no longer matches our ambitions as a club. You all know the facts and reasons, so I won't repeat them, but it's not the sort of thing the club can afford to back down from.
Option 3: The CPO cave.
Obviously this isn't going to happen. They have no need or desire to do so. The only way this happens is if no compromise can be reached for many years, and the loss of revenue hurts Chelsea. Unfortunately, there's every chance the FFP rules and opposition to the new stadium needed to meet them effectively would force Roman out of the club, since the lack of ability to splash his cash would take some of the fun out of owning the club. I can't see the CPO being willing to act as a glass ceiling for the club's ambition. After all, they're Chelsea supporters first.
We all know this going to be portrayed in the media as a big loss for the club, but I think it's both expected and something of a victory. I don't think many expected to get 75% today, and I didn't expect even 61%. As it stands, both sides have more to gain from discussing the issue further and being friends than letting this devolve into a bitter war. I imagine the club will release more concrete plans for a move in the coming months before triggering another vote in the spring. I also expect a slightly better "Yes" vote benefit package, and a 75%+ victory for the club.